The New England Patriots lost their preseason opener to the Washington Redskins, 23-6. Led by quarterback Ryan Mallett, the offense got off to a sluggish start. The defense could not get pressure on Washington’s quarterbacks, and they were picked apart in the secondary.
Luckily for New England, it’s only the first preseason game. The final score doesn’t matter, and there is plenty of time to correct some of the issues that plagued them on Thursday night.
Here’s a look at some players who helped their case and others who struggled on Thursday night.
Malcolm Butler: The undrafted rookie out of West Alabama has been making plays throughout training camp, and got his hands on several passes on Thursday night. He broke up a pair of end zone fade routes, and nearly intercepted the first two passes thrown into his coverage. He gave up a completion to Brian Grant on an out route, but he was in position to make that play, too. His only bad play was a late hit out-of-bounds that drew a personal foul penalty. There’s a small battle brewing at the bottom of the Patriots depth chart at cornerback, and Butler could be making his case for a roster spot.
Tavon Wilson: It’s been nearly two years since the last time Tavon Wilson started a game at safety, but he got an opportunity to do so in the preseason opener. The Patriots have had quite a competition going for reps at strong safety, with Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, and others rotating with Wilson. Wilson also played on multiple special teams units. He is getting every opportunity to prove himself worthy of one of the final spots at safety.
Jimmy Garoppolo: It has not been a good training camp for Garoppolo, who has struggled worse than any other Patriots quarterback. It seems he throws an interception or fumbles a snap (sometimes both) every day in practice. Call him a “gamer” if you want, because he came to play on Thursday night. He was getting rid of the ball quickly, and he had a pair of beautiful deep passes to Brian Tyms — one that should have been a touchdown, and another that was. He finished 9-of-13 for 157 yards and a touchdown. There have been some growing pains, but Garoppolo has flashed the brilliance that made him a second-round pick, and did so once again against the Redskins.
Brian Tyms: The Patriots signed Tyms after training camp had already started, but he wasted no time catching on and led the Patriots in receiving with five catches for 119 yards and a score, becoming a go-to target for Garoppolo in the process. He has good long speed, and is a smooth route-runner. It could be hard for him to beat out both Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce for a roster spot, but if the Patriots carry six or more receivers, he could be a candidate for one of the final spots.
Ryan Mallett: The fourth-year veteran got the starting nod in place of Tom Brady, and did not take advantage of his moment in the sun. Mallett had some moments, with a pair of nice completions that were wiped away by penalties. He looked much better throwing intermediate and deep (threaded the needle on a 15-yard completion to Josh Boyce over the middle in the second quarter) but seemed to struggle with short throws. He never got in rhythm and finished the game 5-of-12 for 55 yards. If Thursday was supposed to be a showcase for the backup, it was not successful in altering his trade value.
Ryan Wendell: The Patriots’ starting center of the past two years was held out of the starting lineup in favor of Dan Connolly. Wendell had previously been competing with Bryan Stork for the starting center snaps in pracice, but Wendell appeared to become the front-runner by default when Stork went down with an injury. The Patriots are instead keeping their options open on the middle of the line. Wendell didn’t come into the game until the second half.
Roy Finch: The undrafted rookie running back has been getting a lot of looks as a kickoff returner in practice, and was the first one in line for those responsibilities on Thursday. He broke a tackle and appeared set for a long gain before fumbling the ball without being hit. the play was ruled dead because of a penalty, but Finch’s struggles had only just begun. He was open on a swing pass, but didn’t turn to look for the ball. He also muffed a punt, but was able to recover it. He was still getting opportunities to carry the ball deep in the fourth quarter.
Nate Solder: It was not a good night for the Patriots left tackle, who was responsible for a sack of Mallett and an early holding penalty that negated a third-down conversion. The offensive tackles have been a big storyline in past preseasons and have corrected themselves, so we’ll see how things go from here.